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Will the plunging pound lead to new border queues?

Sterling has continued to fall against the euro
Gary McDonald Business Editor

WHILE it may have been misery abroad for Northern Ireland tourists on continental holidays this summer, the buoyant euro against sterling represents encouraging news for Northern Ireland's manufacturing exports, its hotel sector - and many of its border businesses.

The pound plunged further against the euro yesterday, fuelling fears that it could actually reach parity against the eurozone currency by the end of 2017.

That is making the north more attractive for 'staycationers' and has also resulted in increasing number of British visitors arriving during June, July and August.

For those investing in hotels and 3,000 more rooms across Northern Ireland, they can't get their projects finished quick enough.

And it is also expected that the currency flip will lead to long queues of southerners heading over the border from the Republic for shopping trips as the value of the euro rises.

Northern retailers operating close to the border have suggested the number of shoppers visiting from the Republic has soared by as much as 60 per cent this year - and they are expecting the trend to continue.

A recent report by Goodbody Stockbrokers on traffic flows showed that there has been a marked increase in south-to-north traffic year-on-year, including a near 30-per cent surge on Saturdays in particular.

"Operating a border retail business has always been a case of swings and roundabouts," one Newry-based retailer told the Irish News.

“We've seen both sides of the swing, and at the moment it seems more people are coming up here, but we are close to Dundalk and it benefits both towns to see the other do well."

He added: "It's not anywhere as crazy as it was in the Celtic Tiger years, but I would say southern customers are up anywhere between 50 and 60 per cent over the last year."

The weaker pound is also driving export optimism, with competitiveness in EU and non-EU markets seeing a marked improvement for Northern Ireland businesses.

Indeed many fast-growing firms in sectors like manufacturing and agri-food say they are more confident about future trade than at any point over the last eight years.

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